Emmy nominations were announced this morning and as usual, there were a number of snubs and surprises, which the Internet collectively whined about this morning. Rather than continue to mourn the lack of a nomination for Tatiana Maslany (which I admittedly complained about as well), actual solutions need to be pitched. Sadly, “chain Emmy voters to a chair and make them actually watch Orphan Black” seems somewhat implausible and definitely criminal, so here are five reasonable and seemingly easy solutions the Emmys should consider next year.
1. A Dramedy Category
One of the most-nominated newcomers announced on Emmy morning was Orange is the New Black, which with 12 total nods amassed more than any other comedy, including Modern Family, Veep, and The Big Bang Theory. Yet most fans of the show would hesitate to classify it as a comedy. Compared to most of the other shows in the category, it certainly does not fit the pattern. And with their nomination hogging, more strictly hilarious comedies like Broad City or Brooklyn Nine-Nine went home empty-handed or with only a few nominations. Many shows on Showtime also occupy that middle space between Comedy and Drama and always submit in Comedy, making for perplexing nominations and wins for shows like Nurse Jackie and The Big C over shows like Arrested Development and 30 Rock. How are voters supposed to compare a show made entirely of absurd jokes and one-liners to a tearjerker about cancer? Shameless even switched categories to try and secure more nods for its deserving stars like Emmy Rossum and Noel Fisher and only managed nods for William H. Macy and Joan Cusack. This also begs the question, “how is category switching even allowed?” but given the rampant category fraud in the Emmys, it’s unsurprising. To solve this problem, a Dramedy category should be created. It’s not that a show should only trade in laughs or cries; 30 Rock and Parks and Recreation have had incredibly emotional, heartfelt moments and Mad Men has produced major laughs thanks to Pete Campbell’s pratfalls or Peggy Olsen shouting “Pizza house!” There are just too many series that defy a Drama or Comedy categorization. A new category would allow more of these shows to break through as nominees and hopefully allow imaginative shows that are actually straightforward comedies to get recognized.
2. Define the Guest Actor Category
Orange is the New Black’s nomination domination also had other effects, like having three of its actresses nominated for Outstanding Guest Actress in a Comedy Series. On one hand, that’s an incredible achievement, but on the other hand, two of those three actresses should probably be submitted to the Supporting category. Orange is the New Black is the easiest example of this, but a number of other shows commit category fraud as well–Outstanding Guest Actor in a Drama Series nominee Robert Morse’s name appears in Mad Men’s opening credits, so he should be Supporting as well. As Alan Sepinwall points out, it’s because the Emmys allow for anyone who isn’t strictly a series regular to choose where they want to submit. The Guest Actor category should be used to honor one-off (or basically one-off) performances that could never be imagined as a Supporting role. Think of Amy Sedaris as a scene-stealing realtor on Broad City, or Sarah Baker’s amazing “fat girls” speech on Louie, or Dylan Baker as sleazy and eccentric millionaire Colin Sweeney on The Good Wife (a role which thankfully was nominated). If the Guest Actor category set up stricter rules on how many episodes or how much screen time constituted a Guest versus a Supporting Actor, the category would be much fairer and a wider range of work would be recognized. At least the category fraud resulted in a bit of happy news even for those who aren’t fans of the show: Laverne Cox became the first transgender woman to be nominated for an Emmy. Given how unimaginative the Emmys normally are, it’s nice to see Cox make history.
3. More Consistent Miniseries Rules
It was an audacious move for HBO to choose to submit True Detective in Drama Series rather than Miniseries, but it certainly paid off for the network. It also set up a titanic battle between Breaking Bad and True Detective for Best Drama Series and one can only hope that Emmy voters have not forgotten about the AMC series, whose fifth season included the masterpiece “Ozymandias” and an unforgettable finale, in favor of their shiny new prestige cop drama. That being said, what makes True Detective a drama but American Horror Story: Coven and Fargo miniseries? All three follow the same anthology format, so shouldn’t they be required to submit in the same category? True Detective’s category fraud does not really seem to have a justification, other than HBO wanting to show up the other networks, and it unfortunately took nomination spots from actual Drama series in numerous categories. Plus allowing series that have submitted to Drama series in the past, like Treme, to submit as a miniseries for their shortened final seasons muddles the category even more. The Emmys need to be more consistent in their rulings on what exactly a miniseries is, rather than continuing to allow category fraud to confuse nominations in yet another way.
4. A Variety/Sketch Performer Category
Given how many categories already exist, pitching more categories to solve Emmy snubs is probably not the solution the Emmys are looking for. But television as a medium has exploded over the past decade and with Netflix and other streaming services joining the landscape, the expansion will continue for the foreseeable future. There’s a tremendous amount of quality and not enough space to recognize it. One place where this is taking a toll on deserving performers is in the Variety category. There is no category for these performers to submit to, so the Emmys allow them to submit for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series, which allows for bizarre submissions like Amy Schumer submitting herself as a supporting role in a show with her name in the title. Sometimes it works out for these variety performers, like Kate McKinnon and Fred Armisen managing nominations this year for Saturday Night Live and Portlandia, respectively. But mainly, it results in worthy performers like Schumer or other members of the Saturday Night Live cast missing out on recognition. Given the current boom of sketch series now appearing on IFC, Comedy Central, and other networks, making a category now for these performers would solve the problem before it becomes a major one, as well as free up spots in the comedic supporting categories for those in more traditionally comedic roles.
5. Stop with the Name Recognition
This is admittedly not easy, nor is there an actual way to fix it. But for the love of all of the clones on Orphan Black, please stop with the star worship. Television is being produced at such a high quality these days that the Emmys just look desperate nominating any famous actor that “slums” on television. The Jeff Daniels win for Outstanding Lead Actor last year is almost as puzzling as why he repeated his nomination this year. And Ricky Gervais managed a nomination for Derek, despite that show not registering on any sort of radar, critical or otherwise. Name recognition also results in entrenched categories with repeat nominees that surely should be replaced with new ones. Michelle Dockery for Downton Abbey instead of Tatiana Maslany or Keri Russell? House of Cards and Downton Abbey getting repeat series nominations instead of The Good Wife’s landmark fifth season, or Scandal, or The Americans? Even nominations that would normally be enjoyable, like Christina Hendricks picking up another nod for Mad Men, are pretty lazy, given that she was given little more to do this season than raise her hand during partners’ meetings. So Emmy voters, get creative when filling out your ballots, and remember that just because someone is famous or was really good three seasons ago on a show you like, it does not mean they deserve an Emmy nod now.